'Learning and coping': How CC staff answered our survey about the fall

Other concerns include personal health risks and shared workspaces

Good morning, and happy Canada day. On this pre-pandemic date last year, local residents were celebrating summer with an “Ice Cream Social and Pie Baking Contest” in Manitou Springs. (Organizers canceled this year’s event because of the virus.)

Today, we recap the responses to a survey we created and sent out to Colorado College staff last week. 

➡️ICYMI: Yesterday, Phoebe Lostroh, our resident microbiologist, gave her weekly COVID-19 forecast for El Paso County (hint: it’s not pretty), and explained why “guilt-free” testing is important.

Results are in: Colorado College staff reacts to CC’s pandemic response, prepares for a socially-distanced fall

Infographic by Colorado College students Rana Abdu, Aleesa Chua, Sara Dixon, Jia Mei, and Lindsey Smith.

Last week we asked Colorado College staff to share their thoughts about reopening campus, about CC’s response to COVID-19, and about social distancing guidelines. (The college defines staff as “all full and part-time exempt and non-exempt staff, including faculty in primarily administrative roles.”) We promoted the questionnaire to staff through emails and social media, and we received 180 responses out of more than 600 CC staff members. That represents around 29% of staff members at Colorado College.

⚠️Some caveats: Results were anonymous, so we can’t say with complete certainty that every response came from a CC staff member. This was an anecdotal survey looking for staff opinions, not a scientific survey by any means. Also, many responses were recorded early last week, before the college released information about fall planning June 26These statements reflect individual views and not those of Colorado College.

Now for the findings…

Under what circumstances would you come back to work on campus full-time?

“I can work remotely and might not need to work on campus full time in the future,” 25% of respondents (44) answered; 17% of respondents (31), said they’d come back when a vaccine is developed and readily available, and another 17% of respondents (31) said they’d return when the college’s work-from-home order ends on Aug. 1. Only 15% (27) said they’d return when students return to campus, and the remaining 26% (47) wrote in their own answer.

📢In the written responses, some respondents said they would come back when there is an effective treatment for the coronavirus, which may be available before a vaccine. Others shared they have autoimmune conditions and would only be comfortable working on-campus part-time in the near future, and several responses were from working parents who said their availability to return will depend on when daycares and K-12 schools reopen:

“I’d need the daycare to be open full-time, and I’d want to be able to remain isolated in my office (all meetings still being virtual),” one respondent wrote. 

When working on campus, do you:

The majority of respondents, 63% (113) said they have their own office. After that, 17% (30) said they share an office, and not having an office or “other” received about 10% each with 19 and 18 responses, respectively. 

📢In the write-in section, some respondents said they are concerned about sharing workspaces with students, navigating common spaces within an office, and poor ventilation in campus buildings. 

To what extent will it be possible to social distance, while doing your job on campus?

Nearly half of the responses, 47% (85) said it would be “somewhat difficult, but manageable” to social distance while working on campus. “Difficult” received 29% (51), “easy” had 17% (31), and only 7% (13) wrote in a response. 

📢Write-in responses highlighted concerns around using shared spaces, and one respondent worried “public restrooms alone will do us all in.” Five other respondents wrote they do not think they would be able to social distance in their current set-ups on campus.

In the June 26 announcement about fall planning, CC administrators said beginning in mid-July, only 50% of employees may return to campus, but some survey responses also indicated concerns about working in close proximity to students in the fall. 

When would you wear a mask?

“When I am in public only” received the most responses, representing 37% (66). Next, 25% (45) said they’d wear a mask “all the time.” Only 14% (25) said they would wear a mask anytime they are indoors, but not outside, and none said they would only wear a mask in their office. The remaining 24% (44) wrote in their own answer.

📢In the optional write-in portion for personal notes, one respondent wrote: “I wear glasses, and wearing a mask fogs them up. It would be hard to work like that.”

How would you rate CC’s overall response to COVID-19?

🤔 Reminder: when we asked students this question in a survey a couple weeks ago, the largest portion (44%) said they thought CC’s overall response to COVID-19 was “OK,” followed by “Good” at 31%. Here’s how staff answers stacked up:

“Good” and “Very Good” each received 33% (59), followed by “OK” with 22% (40). “Poor” only received 5% (9), and “Very Poor” received only 1% (2). The remaining 6% (11) wrote in their own answer.

📢Of the 11 write-in answers, five expressed frustration with CC’s communication: “I have no idea what’s going on,” one respondent wrote. “If there is a back to work working group, why are we not updated on developing plans?” another asked. Others said they thought the college didn’t do enough to include staff input, in comparison to students and faculty. 

Here’s what else some staff had to say about Colorado College and COVID-19 that they feel is important

Unlike our student survey, this time for our last question we gave respondents the opportunity to write in anything else they wanted us to know about the coronavirus pandemic and Colorado College. More than 100 respondents used it to express their thoughts and concerns about reopening in the fall. The most referenced words are represented in the word cloud above.

Some responses focused on concerns respondents have about whether or not students will wear masks and follow social distancing guidelines this fall. One respondent said they have an autoimmune condition and care for an elderly parent, so they have concerns about students ignoring safety guidelines when campus reopens. Another said students who remained on campus for Blocks 7 and 8 didn’t “practice social distancing the way they should.” “I just don’t think we should open in the fall,” one respondent wrote. “How will we be able to control their behavior? We won’t,” another respondent wrote.

At least 16 answers focused on a perceived lack of communication about Colorado College’s fall plans, with “communication” being one of the words featured in the word cloud above. Two said they felt “in the dark,” and around six respondents expressed frustration about the waiting period to learn about CC’s fall plan

Outgoing president Jill Tiefenthaler brought The CC COVID-19 Reporting Project behind the scenes of the spring decision to transition to distance-learning here. In future newsletters, we will seek to better understand how the college plans to engage with feedback from students, faculty, and staff.

Around 20 responses used the optional write-in response to show some appreciation: “There has never been anything like this while I have been employed at CC, so we are all learning and coping,” wrote one. Wrote another: “I have been very grateful to have a job.”

About the CC COVID-19 Reporting Project

The CC COVID-19 Reporting Project is a student-faculty collaboration by Colorado College student journalists Miriam Brown and Arielle Gordon, Visiting Assistant Professor of Journalism Corey Hutchins, Assistant Professor of English Najnin Islam, and Journalism Institute Director Steven Hayward. Work by Phoebe Lostroh, Associate Professor of Molecular Biology at CC and National Science Foundation Program Director in Genetic Mechanisms, Molecular and Cellular Biosciences, will appear from time to time, as will infographics by Colorado College students Rana Abdu, Aleesa Chua, Sara Dixon, Jia Mei, and Lindsey Smith.

The project seeks to provide frequent updates about CC and other higher education institutions during the pandemic by providing original reporting, analysis, interviews with campus leaders, and context about what state and national headlines mean for the CC community. 

📬 Enter your email address to subscribe and get the newsletter in your inbox each time it comes out. You can reach us with questions, feedback, or news tips by emailing ccreportingproject@gmail.com.